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FAQ

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This official FIA FAQ — although somewhat dated circa 1998 — is still a good source of detail and trivia for even the most accomplished F1 enthusiast. For novices, please note that the rules on “knock out” qualifying, tires, race points and refueling have changed radically (some might say back and forth) over the years, with huge revisions in 2008 and 2010. For all (and more recent) F1 terminology, ses our Glossary.

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Official FIA Formula One FAQ
Note: Current FIA Sporting Regulations and Technical Regulations for Formula 1 are available here in PDF.
1. Who organises the Formula One World Championship?
2. How far back does Formula One go?
3. Why was the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) created?
4. “Formula One:” What is the current formula?
5. What is a Grand Prix?
6. How is the World Championship title obtained?
7. What is the scale of points?
8. How many Grands Prix are held every year?
9. Is the Grand Prix timetable always the same?
10. Can any circuit host a Grand Prix?
11. How is a circuit deemed suitable to hold a Grand Prix?
12. What criteria must a constructor meet to be able to participate?
13. Who is the constructor of a Formula One car?
14. Do the constructors have to compete throughout the season?
15. On what criteria are the Formula One technical regulations based?
16. Can any driver compete in a Grand Prix?
17. Are the teams allowed to change drivers during the season?
18. Do the drivers keep the same race number throughout the season?
19. Is the number of laps during the practice sessions free?
20. What is the warm-up?
21. Can the drivers change cars during the event?
22. How do drivers qualify for a race?
23. How is the starting grid arranged?
24. Do the constructors design special cars for the qualifying session?
25. How long does a Grand Prix last?
26. Does a Grand Prix always go ahead, rain or shine?
27. How powerful are Formula One engines?
28. What speeds do Formula One cars reach?
29. Are the cars currently used faster than the cars of the “turbo” era?
30. Can a Formula One car race without suspension like a kart?
31. Why do the regulations require the cars to have a flat bottom?
32. Are Formula One cars fitted with a starter?
33. Do Formula One cars have automatic gearboxes?
34. How many gear ratios do Formula One cars have?
35. Do Formula One cars have better brakes than series produced cars?
36. Is a special type of fuel used in Formula One?
37. How many tyres are authorised per car at each Grand Prix?
38. How is the type of rubber selected?
39. Are the cars checked during the event?
40. How are the fuel checks carried out?
41. How can prohibited electronic functions be detected?
42. What role does the technical delegate play?
43. Who are the Stewards and what are their powers?
44. What types of sanctions may be imposed?
45. Are the Stewards’ decisions final?
46. What is the International Court of Appeal?
47. What are the prerogatives of the Clerk of the Course and the Race Director?
48. How is the race started?
49. How are false starts detected?
50. What happens if a driver stalls on the starting grid?
51. Are there special starting procedures in the event of rain?
52. Can the race be stopped?
53. What procedures apply when the race is interrupted?
54. When is the Safety Car used?
55. What procedure is followed for the safety car?
56. Do the laps covered behind the safety car count?
57. May a car stop at its pit while the safety car is on the track?
58. Is refueling allowed during the race?
59. Are there any speed limits?
60. In what conditions are the cars weighed?
61 What are the different signals which the officials may give to the competitors?
62. Does the chequered flag always signal the finish?
63. Is private testing on circuits authorised?

1. Who organises the Formula One World Championship?

The sporting branch of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, FIA Sport. The FIA governs motor sport worldwide and, as such, administers the Formula One and World Rally Championships, and the F3000 and GT Championships, as well as all other international motor sport.

The Formula One World Championship was created in 1950 and is the oldest FIA Championship. It also has the greatest media impact. It is estimated that the 17 Grands Prix of the 1997 season attracted over 50 billion television viewers, while the printed press maintained a significant presence, with an average of 650 journalists and photographers traveling from all over the world to cover each event.

2. How far back does Formula One go?

There was no “formula” from the heroic era of the motor car in 1894 (the year of the first motor race in history, from Paris to Rouen) up until 1900. The existing vehicles were simply raced. A differentiation was made between the cars on the basis of their method of propulsion (petrol or steam), and their number of seats. At the time, cars always had at least two seats, and it was not until the end of the 1920s that single-seater cars were used. The invention of the rear-view mirror made an important contribution to this development, since one of the mechanic’s tasks was to warn the driver that someone was trying to overtake him.

Immediately after its creation in 1904, the FIA, which is the international sporting authority, became obliged to formulate restrictions to ensure the safety of the drivers and spectators, and to guide motor sport in a direction which would benefit the development of road cars, thus setting a pattern which has been repeated throughout the long history of motor sport. From 1907 to 1939, almost every possible formula was tried. The minimum weight, maximum weight, consumption and bore were each restricted in their turn, but the formula most frequently used, even after 1939, was to limit the cylinder capacity of the engines. This restriction was first introduced in 1914.

Following the introduction of the first “formula” defined by the FIA (which restricted maximum weight) in 1904, categories were created for the smaller cars, yet the name “Formula One” did not appear until after the Second World War, or more specifically, until the creation of the FIA Formula One World Championship at Silverstone on 13 May 1950.

3. Why was the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) created?

Prior to 1904, every country and automobile club organised races, each with its own set of regulations. It was thus virtually impossible to organise international races, since there were no common regulations. The most influential Automobile Clubs of the time therefore decided to put an end to this situation, which was preventing motor sport from flourishing, by creating an international organisation which would draw up common regulations, applicable to races all over the world. This led to the birth of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (the FIA), which was thus able to guarantee to English or German drivers, for example, that the same rules would apply whether they were racing in France, Italy, Belgium, or Monaco.

4. “Formula One:” what is the current formula?

In addition to a large number of specifications relating, in particular, to safety and aerodynamics, the current formula restricts the cylinder capacity of the engine to 3 litres, prohibits supercharging and stipulates a minimum weight of 600 kg, including the weight of the driver and his race equipment.

5. What is a Grand Prix?

The first race to be given the “Grand Prix” title was the Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France held at Le Mans in 1906. It was restricted to “big cars”, which could be described as the “Formula One” cars of the period. From then on, the term Grand Prix became associated with all types of circuit races for cars. Major events, which were the equivalent of today’s Grands Prix, were called “Grandes Epreuves” (Great Events). However, the FIA was opposed to the popular usage of the “Grand Prix” title, which it wished to reserve for events counting towards its Formula One World Championship. Henceforth, it became prohibited to use the Grand Prix title for an event which did not count towards this Championship, except for very rare cases with historic justification, such as the Grand Prix de Pau, which is currently a Formula 3000 event.

6. How is the World Championship title obtained?

There are two titles: “drivers” and “constructors”. The drivers’ title has been awarded since 1950, while the Constructors’ title was introduced in 1958. The constructors add together the points scored in every race by each car of their make (they cannot enter more than two), in the same way as the drivers accumulate the total number of points scored in each event (at one time they could cancel their worst results).

In the event of a dead heat, the title is decided on the basis of the quality of the places obtained, that is, the number of first places, followed by the number of second places, etc.

7. What is the scale of points?

The scale of points awarded to the first six finishers in each race has been modified on two occasions, the most recent of which was in 1991; the first now obtains 10 points (previously nine, and only eight between 1950 and 1960), and the following five are awarded: 6 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 points. There was a time when the driver who recorded the fastest lap was given 1 point.

8. How many Grands Prix are held every year?

When the World Championship was created, Formula One was not as popular as it is today, and the 1950 Championship, for example, consisted of only 7 Grands Prix. This figure gradually increased, peaking at 17 events in 1977. It was then limited to 16, and the possibility of holding a maximum of 17 events was reintroduced in 1996.

A minimum of eight events out of those entered on the calendar must take place for the World Champion Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles to be awarded. The 1997 Argentine Grand Prix was the 600th Grand Prix counting towards the FIA Formula One World Championship.

9. Is the Grand Prix timetable always the same?

Yes, as follows:

Friday*: Free practice from 11.00 to 12.00 and from 13.00 to 14.00
Saturday: Free practice from 09.00 to 09.45 and from 10.15 to 11.00

 

Qualifying practice from 13.00 to 14.00
Sunday: Warm-up (30 minutes) 4 hours 30 minutes before the start of the race
Start of the race: usually at 14.00 (local time), save for exceptional cases.

(*) Thursday for the Monaco Grand Prix

10. Can any circuit host a Grand Prix?

Originally, a Grand Prix could be held anywhere, but the increases in car performance have forced the FIA to impose stringent conditions on the layout, width and length of a circuit, as well as the surface, safety provisions and facilities.

11. How is a circuit deemed suitable to hold a Grand Prix?

Each circuit must be homologated by the FIA Circuits and Safety Commission following a series of inspections which are carried out from the start of the work right up until the inauguration of the circuit. The homologation criteria are less strict for circuits hosting events for slower formulae. In addition to the initial procedure, the circuits sometimes have to carry out maintenance work or update their facilities so that their homologation may be renewed. In the past, with the exception of the Monaco Grand Prix, which is the only event to take place within a town itself, circuits tended to be very fast with long straights. The increase in the cars’ performances has meant that these straights have had to give way to series of bends, which are the only means of preventing excessive speeds. Similarly, very long tracks, like that at the old Nürburgring (22.835 km), have had to be abandoned, since the costs involved in providing the safety facilities and personnel required by the regulations together with the technical facilities necessary for television broadcasting are too great. Monaco is still the shortest circuit (3.328 km), while Spa is the longest (6.940 km).

12. What criteria must a constructor meet to be able to participate?

A constructor who wishes to become involved in Formula One must submit his entry to the FIA, to which he must provide evidence that he is both the designer and constructor of the chassis of his car, and that he also has sufficient technical and financial resources to take part in the whole of the Championship.

13. Who is the constructor of a Formula One car?

By Formula One constructor, we mean the chassis manufacturer. In most cases, this is not the same as the engine manufacturer, and the name of the chassis manufacturer is always given before that of the engine manufacturer. In the event of winning the Constructors’ World Championship, the title is awarded to the chassis manufacturer.

Ferrari is currently the only constructor producing both the chassis and the engine.

14. Do the constructors have to compete throughout the season?

Yes. Any constructor who fails to turn up at an event may be fined several hundred thousand dollars per event and per car, except in the case of force majeure (but the FIA is very strict when it comes to defining a case of force majeure). A constructor may not join the championship during the season.

15. On what criteria are the Formula One technical regulations based?

They address two main concerns:

  1. Controlling performance, in the interests of safety, while at the same time preserving the visual perception of speed and of the technological prowess of a Formula One car;
  2. Ensuring the best possible level of passive safety in the event of an accident.

There are thus restrictions on cylinder capacity, fuel, tyre dimensions, the minimum weight and width of the car, as well as on the dimensions and positioning of the aerodynamic devices and on electronic driving aids, most of which are prohibited.

Moreover, there are stipulations relating not only to the strength of the chassis and the protective rollbars, but also to flexible fuel tanks (inspired by military aviation), fire extinguishers, harnesses, head and neck protection, and so on. The positions of the fuel and oil tanks are specified and they must have special protection. Access to and from the cockpit together with its dimensions are also controlled.

For financial reasons, engines which are not reciprocating or 4-stroke are prohibited, and the engines are restricted to a maximum of twelve cylinders which cannot have an oval section. It is obligatory for each car to have four wheels, only two of which are driven (yes, in the past there were Formula One cars with six wheels!).

16. Can any driver compete in a Grand Prix?

In order to be able to take part in a Grand Prix, a driver must hold a “Super License”, which is awarded on the basis of his past record in junior formulae and of his having a valid contract with a Formula One team which has entered the World Championship.

 

17. Are the teams allowed to change drivers during the season?

Yes, each team with two cars may change the driver of its first car once in the season. For the second car, a maximum of three drivers may take turns, without restriction, during any one season. This excludes cases of force majeure, which are not counted. Notification of a change of driver must be made before the end of the scrutineering and the sporting checks (the Thursday preceding the event, at 18.00).

18. Do the drivers keep the same race number throughout the season?

Yes, if they stay with the same team, as the numbers are attributed to the constructors, and not the drivers, at the beginning of the season. The only exceptions to this are the reigning World Champion, who is always allocated number 1 even if he is driving for a different make from that with which he won the title, and his team mate who is given number 2.

19. Is the number of laps during the practice sessions free?

For qualifying practice, a maximum of 12 laps is allowed and any driver running over the maximum of 12 laps will have its best qualifying time withdrawn. The number of laps is no longer limited for the free practice sessions, including the warm-up.

20. What is the warm-up?

The warm-up is a free practice session which takes place on the morning of the race and lasts for half an hour. Only drivers who have qualified may take part in it. It is obligatory for this practice session to begin four and a half hours before the start of the race. If all the practice sessions have taken place in dry conditions and it begins to rain after the warm-up, or vice-versa, the Race Director may authorise an additional 15-minute practice session, which will allow the cars to adapt to the weather conditions.

The warm-up is very important, since it enables the teams to test the cars in their race configuration, in conditions (pressure, temperature, humidity, etc.) which are, theoretically, very similar to those of the race itself.

21. Can the drivers change cars during the event?

During the practice sessions, teams with two cars may use a maximum of two cars for each day of free practice, and a maximum of three cars for qualifying practice, provided that all the cars have been checked by the Scrutineers and are of the same make (chassis and engine).

During the race, however, no change of car is authorised following the green light signaling the start of the formation lap.

Nevertheless, if the race is interrupted before two laps have been completed, the starting procedure is repeated, and car changes are authorised once again until the green light (indicating the start of the formation lap) is shown.

22. How do drivers qualify for a race?

Qualifying practice is on Saturday, from 1 pm to 2 pm. During this hour each driver has a maximum of 12 laps to set the fastest possible time.

The driver who set the fastest time will start from the first line in the “pole position”, and the others will line up on the grid in the order of the times they have achieved. In the event of a tie, the driver who achieved the time first is given priority.

Any driver whose fastest time in qualifying practice exceeds the pole position time by 7% or more is not allowed to start without special permission of the Stewards.

23. How is the starting grid arranged?

The starting grid consists of two cars per row in staggered formation, with an interval of eight meters between each row and the next.

24. Do the constructors design special cars for the qualifying session?

Special cars as such are not built specifically for qualification, but, in a few cases only, special engines, or even special set-ups, are designed for qualifying practice, so that the engine’s full potential may be reached, even though this shortens its life-span.

25. How long does a grand prix last?

The distance of a Grand Prix may not exceed 305 km, and no race may last for more than two hours. On certain slower circuits (such as Monaco), in the event of rain, the Clerk of the Course is sometimes obliged to stop the race after two hours.

26. Does a Grand Prix always go ahead, rain or shine?

Yes, a Formula One Grand Prix takes place in all weather conditions, and the tyre manufacturers have developed treaded tyres which help to avoid the risk of aquaplaning. Nevertheless, the Clerk of the Course has the power to stop the event, if this becomes necessary for safety reasons. Apart from grip, the greatest problem in the event of rain is visibility, which is significantly reduced due to the spray thrown up by the cars’ tyres. In order to counteract this problem, the cars are equipped with a red light at the rear which must be switched on if it starts to rain.

27. How powerful are formula one engines?

Even though the constructors refuse to divulge details of their engine power, it is rumored that at the beginning of the 1997 season the maximum power easily exceeded seven hundred horse power. Manufacturers of engines with eight or ten cylinders maintain that maximum power is not the only valid criteria, since there is also the power curve which in their case is better at a low engine speed.

28. What speeds do formula one cars reach?

The Grand Prix with the highest average speed in history was the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, won by Peter Gethin in a BRM at an average speed of 242.615 kph (151.634 mph) on the Monza circuit which at the time did not yet have any chicanes (interestingly, a recent computer simulation suggested that current Formula One cars would achieve an average speed of well over 300 kph – 190 mph – on the original circuit). In 1997, the fastest Grand Prix was the Italian, won by David Coulthard at an average of 238.036 kph (147.940 mph). The highest speed recorded during practice in 1997 was 250.295 kph (155.559 mph), which was set at Monza by Jean Alesi, while the highest straight line speed recorded during a Grand Prix in the 1997 season was set by Jacques Villeneuve, at 351.7 kph (218.6 mph), during the German Grand Prix. The lowest average speed of a Grand Prix winner in 1997 was 104.264 kph (64.800 mph), and was recorded by Michael Schumacher in the Monaco Grand Prix.

29. Are the cars currently used faster than the cars of the “turbo” era?

If a 1.5-litre turbocharged car were produced today, as was the case up until 1988, it would be a great deal faster than the contemporary 3-litre cars. However, contemporary cars benefit from significant technological progress, allowing them to exceed the speeds of the 1988 turbocharged models, despite the fact that these were able to rely on over 1,200 horsepower in qualifying!

30. Can a Formula One car race without suspension like a kart?

The regulations stipulate genuine suspension — the fitting of silent-blocks is not sufficient. However, the current cars have very little suspension travel, in order to restrict changes in trim which would influence the effectiveness of the aerodynamic devices.

31. Why do the regulations require the cars to have a flat bottom?

It became evident that significant lift could be achieved by giving the bottom of the two side members the shape of inverted aeroplane wings. In order to reduce downforce (the so-called “ground effect”), and thus reduce cornering speed, the FIA made it obligatory for each car to have a flat bottom between the front of the rear wheels and the rear of the front wheels, as well as a ground clearance obtained by means of a skid block attached to the flat bottom. The constructors have nevertheless managed to optimise the behavior of the airfoils and aerodynamic extractors situated behind the gear box, to such an extent that a current Formula One car is capable of a transverse acceleration of up to 4G, whereas a road car does not exceed 1G.

32. Are Formula One cars fitted with a starter?

A starter has not been obligatory for several years, and teams choose not to fit one in order to prevent an additional source of energy from causing incidents such as a fire or an explosion. They are authorised to use a portable starter in front of their pits, but if a driver stalls on the circuit during the race, he has to retire, even if the car restarts once the marshals have pushed it away from a dangerous position.

33. Do Formula One cars have automatic gearboxes?

Automatic gearboxes are prohibited by the technical regulations. However, all the cars are equipped with semi-automatic gearboxes: to change gear, the driver no longer has to activate the clutch pedal at the same time as the gear lever. He simply presses a button on the side of his steering wheel. There is a button on each side: one for changing up, the other for changing down. He therefore no longer has to take his hand off the steering wheel, and this hydraulic device, which is electronically activated, allows the driver to change gear in one or two hundredths of a second, which is unquestionably faster than with a conventional system.

34. How many gear ratios do Formula One cars have?

The rapid changes possible with semi-automatic gearboxes mean that transmissions with a greater number of ratios (six or seven) can be installed. On circuits with a large number of bends, the drivers only use four or five ratios. Reverse gear is obligatory, but must not be used in the pit-lane, on pain of immediate exclusion from the Grand Prix.

35. Do Formula One cars have better brakes than series produced cars?

The brakes on series-produced cars are derived from the disc brakes which were first used in racing. All Formula One cars are equipped with brakes with callipers made from light alloy while the discs and pads tend to be made from synthetic materials, i.e. carbon/carbon. Their resistance to heat is much greater than that of series-produced brakes (which is why, in certain conditions, the insides of the wheels appear completely incandescent) and they weigh significantly less. Their braking power is thus uncommonly high: at the end of a straight, at maximum speed (around 340 kph – 212.5 mph), a Formula One car can brake at less than 100 meters in order to take a slow corner. Naturally, carbon/carbon is expensive: it takes six months to produce a disc, at a temperature of between 900 and 2000°C. The same material is now used to produce clutch discs.

36. Is a special type of fuel used in Formula One?

No. “Green”, unleaded fuel is used, similar to that available at petrol stations. The petrol used in Formula One also has to comply with the strictest EEC standards concerning pollution.

At one time, the fuel used in Formula One consisted of a mixture of hydrocarbons, and was a very special fuel, which bore no resemblance to commercial petrol. The FIA put an end to these permissive regulations, with the dual aim of steering the oil companies’ research in the right direction, so that it would benefit the ordinary motor car, and of significantly reducing pollution.

It is clear that even after this revision of the regulations, the fuel used by Formula One cars is still not yet available from petrol pumps. However, it is also clear that the oil companies are obliged by the regulations to use fuels which could be commercialized, and which probably will be in the future. It is therefore evident that Formula One continues to serve as a laboratory, which will ultimately be of benefit to the ordinary motor car (see also question 40).

37. How many tyres are authorised per car at each Grand Prix?

The regulations stipulate that each driver may use a maximum of 40 dry-weather tyres and 28 wet-weather tyres throughout the duration of the event. Moreover, each driver may use a maximum of two rubber specifications for his dry-weather tyres during free practice, but he must designate the rubber specification he wishes to use for the rest of the event before the start of qualifying practice. Thus, the maximum number of tyres he may use for qualifying practice, the warm-up and the race is 28 (14 front and 14 rear), chosen from amongst the 40. All of these tyres are marked by the scrutineers, who are also responsible for checking that no driver exceeds the maximum number of tyres allowed.

38. How is the type of rubber selected?

A hard or softer type of rubber is selected on the basis of the driver’s style, the design of the car, the atmospheric temperature and the layout of the circuit. In general, the slower the circuit and the cooler the temperature, the softer the rubber, allowing greater grip. On the other hand, high speeds, together with a highly abrasive track and a heavy and powerful car wear the tyres down more quickly. The team and the driver must therefore strike a balance between various options, i.e., whether to mount harder tyres which grip less well but permit fewer pit-stops, or whether to use softer tyres which will have to be changed several times during the race. A judicious choice sometimes enables one of the less powerful cars to win a Grand Prix. Tyre changes are a part of the Formula One landscape; the better trained teams usually manage to change all four tyres and refuel in the space of 5 to 10 seconds.

39. Are the cars checked during the event?

The day before practice begins, the Scrutineers carry out a tour of the garages, checking that all the cars comply with the regulations. In addition to this, spot checks may be carried out at any time, and all the cars which finish the race are checked in the parc fermé once they have crossed the finish line. Any car which does not comply with the technical regulations is penalized with exclusion. This penalty is declared by the Stewards.

40. How are the fuel checks carried out?

At the start of the season, each team entered in the Championship must provide a sample of 120 litres of the petrol it wishes to use. The sample is analysed in a specialised laboratory, to check not only that it is in conformity with the Technical Regulations, but also that it is a genuine fuel of the type “available from the pump”.

If the sample is approved, an “imprint” (a sort of “genetic code” of the fuel) is provided. At the events, the FIA Technical Delegate carries out spot checks, taking samples of petrol from the cars during the practice sessions or after the race. Using the principles of gas chromatography with extremely sophisticated and very accurate technological equipment (a gas chromatograph and a machine for measuring the density of the fuel), the samples are analysed instantaneously, to see on site whether their “imprint” is identical to the reference imprint approved by the FIA.

If a sample is not in conformity, the Technical Delegate will make a report to the Stewards of the Meeting, who may then pronounce the exclusion of the car in question or any other sanction provided for in the Regulations. Of course, a team may change the petrol it uses several times during the season, but each time it wishes to do so it must submit a new sample to the FIA before using this new petrol. If this sample is approved, the reference “imprint” of this new petrol will be registered.

41. How can prohibited electronic functions be detected?

On site, at each Grand Prix, the FIA has an electronic laboratory as well as sophisticated equipment and a team of experts who, at any time (even on the starting grid!), may check whether the cars’ electronics is concealing electronic driving aids prohibited by the regulations, such as traction control.

The electronics of a Formula One car comprise up to 500,000 lines of source code (software). Obviously, it would be impossible to carry out an in-depth check of such an electronic program, for example on the grid just before the start of the Grand Prix. Therefore, the procedure is similar to that used for the petrol. The teams provide the FIA with their electronic programme, and the FIA checks it in detail before the start of the season. Once the programme is approved, the FIA keeps an “imprint” (an electronic “genetic code” of the car); at the events, the FIA team assigned to check the electronic programmes makes sure that the programmes installed in the cars do not differ in any way from the approved model. If need be, they may examine in detail only the lines which do not correspond to those of the approved code, and check whether or not they contain one or more parameters in breach of the regulations.

Once again, if anything is not in conformity, the Technical Delegate makes a report to the Stewards of the Meeting who will decide to exclude the car or to impose any other sanction provided for in the Regulations.

42. What role does the technical delegate play

The FIA Technical Delegate heads the team of Scrutineers responsible for checking that the cars comply with the Technical Regulations. If he finds that a car does not comply, he submits a report to the Stewards, but does not have the power to disqualify or penalise a car himself.

43. Who are the Stewards and what are their powers?

The three Stewards are the judges, or the referees, of an event. They examine the reports submitted by the various officials and, once they have heard the explanations and defense of all the parties concerned, decide on any sanctions. In order to ensure sporting equity, the Stewards vary from one event to another; two of them are nominated by the FIA from amongst holders of the Stewards’ “super license”. The third Steward is designated by the National Sporting Authority of the country in which the event is taking place. The Stewards appointed by the FIA are of a different nationality from that of the country in which the event is taking place.

They may, at any time, impose the sanctions set out in the International Sporting Code and, if they judge the behavior of a competitor or a driver to be reprehensible, they may request that he be summoned before the World Motor Sport Council.

44. What types of sanctions may be imposed?

The sanctions set out in the International Sporting Code range from a reprimand to disqualification, and include fines, exclusion, suspension for one or more races, and even the withdrawal of Championship points.

During the race, the Stewards may also impose a time penalty on a driver. In this case, the driver must remain at his pit for the duration of his penalty. In reality, this penalty, which is usually 10 seconds, involves a far greater loss of time, given the time taken to return to the pit and to leave it again, both at reduced speed. Depending on the configuration of the circuit, this can result in a time loss of between 25 and 40 seconds.

For any faults committed during qualifying practice, whether they be of a sporting or technical nature, the Stewards may also cancel all the driver’s times. Nevertheless, the Stewards have the power to authorise a driver who is penalised in this manner to take the start from the back of the grid.

45. Are the Stewards’ decisions final?

No. Any competitor who feels that he has been unfairly penalised by a Stewards’ decision may appeal against this decision before the International Court of Appeal. He must declare his intention to do so within one hour of being notified of the Stewards’ decision. Similarly, the FIA has the right to defer a decision of the Stewards to the International Court of Appeal, if it believes that the Stewards have misjudged or inappropriately penalised the matter. There have already been cases in which the Stewards or the Clerk of the Course have been penalised by having their licenses suspended, or in which competitors’ rights have been restored by the International Court of Appeal.

46. What is the International Court of Appeal?

It is the final and highest recourse, and is, in a way, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’s very own “Supreme Court of Appeal”. The International Court of Appeal is independent of the Sport, and its fifteen members, who have a three-year mandate, are chosen from amongst eminent judges and magistrates (some of whom are Supreme Court of Appeal judges in their own country). In order for the International Court of Appeal to be able to convene, at least three judges must be present, none of whom may be of the same nationality as any of the parties concerned.

47. What are the prerogatives of the Clerk of the Course and the Race Director?

The Clerk of the Course, who is nominated by the organiser, is materially responsible for the coordination of all the officials and track marshals at the Grand Prix. It is he who gives the order to send out the safety car, for example, or to stop the race or practice session. Nevertheless, the Clerk of the Course must work closely with, and under the authority of, the Race Director, who is nominated by the FIA. The same Race Director officiates at all the Grands Prix in the Championship. The Race Director also acts as Safety Delegate and Official Starter, while it is the Clerk of the Course who waves the traditional chequered flag at the end of the race.

48. How is the race started?

Half an hour before the start, the cars leave the pit lane. The drivers may cover several laps if they wish, but to do this they must pass through the pit lane at greatly reduced speed. They come to a standstill on the starting grid with their engines stopped.

Fifteen minutes before the start, the pit lane exit is closed and any driver who is not yet on the track has to start from the pit lane exit, after all the other competitors have gone past.

Five minutes before the start, access to the grid is closed and any driver who is delayed on the circuit has to start from the pit lane exit. His vacant position is not filled on the grid.

When the green light comes on, the drivers begin the formation lap. When they come back to the grid, they keep their engines running. Once all the cars have come to a halt in their starting positions, the starter activates the automatic pre-programmed final start procedure: five lights turn red one after the other at one second intervals until all five lights are lit. The start signal is the extinction of all the lights at once. This occurs between 0.2 and 3 seconds after the last red light has been lit. This lapse of time is pre-programmed by the starter at each race, but kept secret. If a driver is delayed during the formation lap and arrives within sight of the grid once the starting procedure is underway, he must start from the pit lane.

49. How are false starts detected?

Each position on the grid is equipped with electronic sensors. These transmit a signal to a central unit located in the control tower if any car moves before the start signal has been given. The Stewards will usually inflict a time penalty on a driver who jumps the start.

50. What happens if a driver stalls on the starting grid?

There are three distinct scenarios:

  1. If a driver stalls while the green light is on (indicating the start of the formation lap), his mechanics are allowed to push the car to get it to start, once all the competitors have left the grid. Since overtaking is not permitted during the formation lap, he must start from the back of the grid. However, a driver who has had difficulty starting the car but who manages to leave before the last car has crossed the Start/Finish line is allowed to overtake during the formation lap and take up his original position on the grid.
  2. If a driver stalls on the grid after the formation lap, but before the start, he must raise his arm to notify the starter, who turns on the flashing yellow lights. The start is aborted and the procedure begins again from the “5-minute” board. In order to compensate for the additional formation lap, the race is reduced by one lap. The driver responsible for the false start must start from the back of the grid.
  3. If a driver stalls during the start (when all the lights are extinguished), and therefore too late for the starting procedure to be interrupted and aborted, the marshals will push his car to the pit lane once all the competitors have left the grid. If the driver is then able to start his engine, he may rejoin the race. Otherwise, he is pushed back to his pit where his mechanics will take over.

51. Are there special starting procedures in the event of rain?

In the event of rain, the regulations provide for different possibilities, depending on the circumstances:

  1. If the rain is such that, in the opinion of the Race Director, it would be dangerous to start the race with the normal procedure, it is possible to start behind the “Safety Car”. In this case, the revolving yellow lights on the Safety Car, which is positioned in front of the starting grid, are switched on at the 5-minute signal. This indicates to the drivers that the race will be started behind the Safety Car. When the green light is switched on, the Safety Car leaves the grid followed by all the other cars. The race starts when the leading car having completed one lap crosses the Start/Finish line. Overtaking is permitted only after the Safety Car has returned into the pit lane (see 55). Prior to this, overtaking is only permitted in order to pass a car which remains on the grid, or in order to retain a grid position provided the car overtaking left the grid before the last car crossed the Start/Finish line.
  2. If it starts to rain after the 5-minute signal but before the start of the race, the procedure may be interrupted and recommence at the 15-minute point.
  3. If the start of the race is imminent and a particularly heavy shower begins, and the volume of water on the track is such that it cannot be negotiated safely, the procedure may be interrupted by the Race Director, who will order a “10″ board with a red background to be shown. This indicates that the start has been aborted and that there will be a delay of at least 10 minutes before the procedure is resumed.If weather conditions have improved at the end of the ten-minute period, a “10″ board with a green background will be shown, indicating that the start of the formation lap will be given 10 minutes later. If however, the weather conditions have not improved within ten minutes, the “10″ board with the red background is shown again, indicating a further delay of ten minutes. This procedure may be repeated several times, but it is not necessary to wait for the end of the 10 minutes to show the green board.

52. Can the race be stopped?

Yes, the Clerk of the Course (under the direction of the FIA Race Director) may interrupt the race at any time in the interests of safety, and particularly if the circuit is blocked. This is done by ordering red flags to be shown along the whole of the track.

53. What procedures apply when the race is interrupted?

In the event of this happening, there are three possibilities, depending on the number of laps completed by the race leader:

A. Less than two laps completed

B. Two or more laps completed, but less than 75% of the total distance of the race.

C.75% or more of the total race distance completed.

In case A, which is typical when accidents occur during the start, the first start is considered null and void and the new start is given twenty minutes later.

In case B, the race is considered to be in two parts. Thus, if the safety conditions permit, there is a second start twenty minutes later, for which the grid is determined on the basis of the classification of the penultimate lap before the signal to stop the race was given (red flag). If a second start cannot be given, the classification of the race will be that of the penultimate lap preceding the signal to stop the race and only half the points will be awarded.

In case C, the race will be considered as finished, and all the points will be awarded on the basis of the classification of the penultimate lap preceding the signal to stop the race.

54. When is the Safety Car used?

The purpose of the Safety Car is to neutralise the race in the event of an accident or other incident which exposes competitors or officials to immediate physical danger. This is not only to allow ambulances and other emergency teams to be able to get through, but also because the presence of these vehicles on the track would constitute a major risk for the other competitors if the race had not been neutralised. However, the Safety Car may only be used when the track is not blocked.

55. What procedure is followed for the safety car?

The Clerk of the Course (under the direction of the FIA Race Director) is responsible for giving the order to dispatch the Safety Car. When the Safety Car is in use, and as soon as it leaves the pit-lane, a yellow flag together with the “SC” board is shown at the track marshals’ posts. Overtaking is prohibited, and the cars must reduce their speed and line up, in classification order, behind the Safety Car. As soon as circuit (or weather) conditions permit, the Safety Car will extinguish its revolving lights and return to the pit lane to indicate that the race will start again when the cars next cross the Start/Finish line.

56. Do the laps covered behind the safety car count?

Yes, all the laps covered behind the Safety Car count as part of the total distance of the race.

57. May a car stop at its pit while the safety car is on the track?

Yes, but it may only rejoin the track when the green light is on in the pit lane. It will be on at all times except when the Safety Car and the line of cars following it are about to pass or are passing the pit exit. A car rejoining the track will proceed at reduced speed until it reaches the end of the line of cars behind the Safety Car.

Thus, a car which makes a pit stop in such circumstances will lose its position and rejoin the race at the back of the field, but not necessarily in last place since there might be cars in the field which are one or more laps behind the car which made the pit-stop.

58. Is refueling allowed during the race?

Yes, but it must be carried out with the refueling equipment supplied by the FIA. The system is based on aviation equipment and complies with all the other safety requirements laid down by the FIA. Refueling is not obligatory.

59. Are there any speed limits?

Strange though it may seem, yes, but only in the pit lane, where the speed limit is between 80 or 120 kph (50 or 75 mph), depending on the circuit and the configuration of the pit lane.

There are electronic devices checking the speed of the cars along the whole of the pit lane; if a competitor exceeds the limit during the race, he is usually penalised with a time penalty (see question 44), whereas if he exceeds it during a practice session, he is usually given a fine ($ x km). However, as in everyday life, the severity of the punishment is proportional to the seriousness of the offense, and also takes repeat offenses into account.

To avoid this, most of the constructors have equipped their cars with a “speed limiter” which the driver has to activate (usually by pressing a button on the steering wheel) as soon as he enters the pit lane. However, sometimes drivers forget to do so….

60. In what conditions are the cars weighed?

The Scrutineers may weigh the cars at all times, to make sure that they never weigh less than 600 kg, including driver. Electronic weighing devices are located at the entrance to the pit lane to enable these checks to be carried out. During qualifying practice, an electronic programme selects at random the cars which are to be checked. When a car is chosen by the computer, a red light comes on and the driver returning to his pit must proceed to the weighing area. If the weight of the car is insufficient, the driver is excluded for the rest of the event, but he has the right to request that the car be weighed a second time. To avoid cheating, any car which breaks down on the circuit also has to pass in front of the computer which decides whether the car must be weighed in the same conditions. At the finish of the race, all the cars are directed to the parc fermé where they are weighed; the drivers are also weighed before proceeding to the podium or to their motorhome. If a car’s weight does not comply at the finish, it is excluded from the classification. Such an instance has already occurred.

61. What are the different signals which the officials may give to the competitors?

In addition to the red flag, “stopping the race”, and the chequered flag, “end of the race”, there are other flags, each having a specific meaning.

The blue flag indicates “a competitor is about to overtake you”, but if the flag is waved, it orders him to let the other car overtake, on pain of a time penalty for obstruction. This order is only given to a car which is one or more laps behind the overtaker. The yellow flag indicates danger, and overtaking under yellow flag is always prohibited. Also the yellow flag may have two meanings, depending if it is stationary (“drive well within your limits”) or waved (“slow down”).

The green flag indicates the end of the danger and of the ban on overtaking. The flag with vertical red and yellow stripes warns the competitors that the track is slippery (usually oil), and a black flag with an orange disc accompanied by the number of a car warns the driver that his car has a mechanical problem and that he must go to his pit. A flag with a white triangle and a black triangle accompanied by the number of a car is a warning for unsporting behaviour. The black flag, accompanied by the number of a car, summons the driver of such car to immediately return to his pit. This procedure is mostly used to notify a competitor of his exclusion from the race.

62. Does the chequered flag always signal the finish?

Yes, even if the Clerk of the Course waves his flag too early, the race still ends when he gives this signal. However, if he waves it too late the classification is that obtained at the end of the scheduled number of laps. Only cars which have covered 90% of the distance will be classified. A driver does not necessarily have to still be on the track to be classified, but if a car takes more than twice as long as the fastest lap time achieved by the winner to complete his last lap, this lap will not be taken into account.

63. Is private testing on circuits authorised?

If an event is due to be held on a new circuit, free practice may take place on the Thursday before the event.

Otherwise, private testing is forbidden:

  1. On any circuit which appears on the Formula One World Championship calendar, except for Monza, Barcelona, Silverstone and Magny-Cours.
  2. On all circuits during the week preceding the event (except for a shakedown test of no more than 50 km).
  3. On any circuit which has not been approved for Formula One.

 


 

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